This is a glossary of terms and acronyms that relate to New Zealand's land survey and registration systems.

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Note: Definitions in this glossary are gathered from a range of sources; full details of quoted material and sources are available on request.

Abstracts/lodgement forms

Abstracts/lodgement forms are records of the instruments (mortgages, leases, etc) lodged with LINZ by lawyers in land transactions.

These are now made electronically. Historically, abstracts/lodgement forms were a pre-printed form, typed or handwritten, and were bound into books.


This is the legal description for a specific piece of land. Land has been numbered and named differently in each Land District over time. Thus, locating land by its historical legal description depends on its Land District and the type of land being dealt with. Some examples include:

  • ‘Section 1 Block VII Mata Survey District’ for Crown land
  • ‘Kaiti 313A6B2’ for Māori Land
  • ‘Section 1019-1022 Town of Christchurch’ for land in a town.

Each of these depends on the way the land was historically recorded and described.

The commonly used terms to describe the land are parcels (eg Lots) and plan types (eg Deposited Plan, Survey Office plan, etc). So currently land is described as ‘Lot 123 on DP 456’. Historical legal descriptions vary by Land District and include ‘Hundreds’, ‘Parishes’, and ‘Blocks’.

Under the current land transfer system, each parcel of land is described as a Lot on a DP (Deposited Plan), eg Lot 123 DP4567 (the 123rd lot on Deposited Plan 4567).

You can find legal descriptions on rating valuation notices or rates demands. You can also search maps on some local council websites. Rating rolls, held by some city and district councils, also list the history of legal descriptions for properties.

Cadastral Record Map

Also known as ‘Record Map’ or ‘Block Sheet’, depending on the Land District it relates to.

A Cadastral Record Map is a compilation of information from Survey Plans and other sources, showing Section and Lot boundaries, areas, legal roads and other legal information that may not have any specific plan on which it was recorded. Early sequences are often referred to as ‘Imperial’ maps (drawn on a scale of chains to the inch) while later sequences are called ‘Metric’ record maps.

The Cadastral Record Map is the only paper record which gives an overall picture of an area and references all the Survey Plan Numbers. This is the starting point for any surveyor wanting copies of plans for a new survey.

These should not be confused with the commercially published NZMS Cadastral Maps.

Cadastral Survey Dataset (CSD)

The Cadastral Survey Act 2002 defines a CSD as "the set of cadastral survey data necessary to integrate a cadastral survey into the cadastre". See 'cadastre' below.


The Cadastral Survey Act 2002 defines the cadastre as "all the cadastral survey data held by or for the Crown and Crown agencies".

Certificate of Title

A certificate of title records the legal owners of land and all dealings with the land, like transfers of ownership and mortgages, leases etc, registered under the Land Transfer Act 1952. All certificates of title were converted into ‘computer registers’ between 1999 and 2002 (Landonline titles conversion), although the terms ‘certificate of title’ and ‘title’ are still commonly used. These may also be referred to as ‘documents’ or ‘instruments’.

Crown Grant

Land originally owned by the Crown granted to private owners before the title system came about. Crown grants continue to exist till this day for large pieces of land. Any subdivisions of land from a Crown grant will be issued a Certificate of Title.

Crown grants were issued under the Royal Instructions of 1840 by Governor Hobson and later by legislation, such as the Crown Grants Act and the Land Act. There are two types of Crown grants:

  • Bound volumes
  • New Munster grants.
Crown Land

‘Crown land’ means land vested in Her Majesty that is not set aside for any public purpose or held by any person in fee simple (see the Land Act 1948, s 2). Crown land in New Zealand is administered under the provisions of the Land Act 1948.

In terms of the Maori Land Act Te Ture Whenua Maori 1993, s 129, land (other than Māori customary land and Crown land reserved for Māori) that has not been alienated from the Crown for a subsisting estate in fee simple has the status of Crown land. See Laws NZ, Crown land.


See the entry for 'Cadastral Survey Dataset'


The deeds system was the main way property ownership was recorded in New Zealand before the land titles system. There is a very small area of land remaining in the deeds system.
A copy of the deed itself was held by the landowner, as their evidence of ownership, while the original was lodged and registered – LINZ still holds a (partial) set of these documents.
Note, however, that the significant record of the land transaction is the entry in the Deeds Register.

All deed registers and/or indexes are now held by Archives New Zealand.

Records from the deed books can be only digitally copied, because of the size and fragility of the volumes, so you may need to view these in person, or pay for a digital copy of a specific page.

Deposited Plan

Sometimes also known as a ‘Title Plan’, these are plans recording land transfer subdivisions that have been deposited by the Registrar General of Lands. They are identified by a number and a DP prefix such as ‘DP 12345’. Most modern land transfers are identified by their position on a specific deposited plan, eg Lot 123 DP 4567.

This is the plan deposited when the title was created. This could be a simple plan of the property's boundaries, area and dimensions, a detailed survey plan or a combination of both. 

Documents – see Instruments.

An easement is a right to use the land of another without having the right to possession of that land. The land subject to the easement is the 'servient tenement'. An easement may be for the benefit of the owner of other land (when it is said to be 'appurtenant to' or attached to the 'dominant tenement' or the land benefitting from it, owned by the 'dominant owner') or it may be an easement 'in gross', meaning it is for the benefit of a person or corporation specifically ('the grantee').

Some common easements:

  • right of way – the dominant owner or grantee can walk or drive a car etc over someone else's land
  • drainage easement – the dominant owner or grantee can drain water over someone else's land
  • right to convey electricity/telecommunications and computer media/gas – the dominant owner or grantee can run utilities through pipes or lines through someone else's land. 
Easement Instrument

An easement instrument is a specific form of instrument, introduced into the Land Transfer Act 1952 in 2002, which may be used to create new easements. Historically, easements were created by different forms of instruments, including:

  • an Easement Instrument under Section 90A LTA
  • Transfer Instrument under Section 90
  • a Memorandum of Transfer under the former provisions of the LTA or any former Land Transfer Act
  • Memorandum, under section 155A Land Transfer Act – this is a form in which someone can set out the standard terms and conditions applying to transactions registered on a regular basis (They register the Memorandum with LINZ, and we allocate a reference number, and then in their transactions they can recite that reference number instead of setting out the terms and conditions for every transaction. Memorandum forms are commonly used by banks for mortgages, but can be used by others such as the publishers of generic mortgage, lease and easement instrument forms.)
  • an Easement Certificate under the former Section 90A LTA
  • any other document by which a registered easement may have been granted or created.
Field Book – see Surveyor’s Field Book
Imperial Plans

These are coloured plans with measurements in imperial standards (eg chains, links, roods, perches, acres).


These are volumes created to give access to another set of records. They can be arranged many different ways, including by name, and vary in form and content between the different land districts.


An instrument is a legal document such as a transfer of ownership, a mortgage or an easement. Sometimes referred to simply as ‘documents’. The most common types of instruments are:

  • caveat
  • covenant
  • discharge mortgage
  • easement
  • lease
  • mortgage
  • restriction
  • transfer
  • transmission.

The Land Transfer Journals were compiled 1871–1974 as a daily record of all instruments received for registration, listed in the order in which they were received. Other records called journals usually record financial transactions.

Land District

Section 22 of the Land Act 1948 declared 12 Land Districts. These are listed below with the principal office and the reference to the gazetted description.

Land DistrictPrincipal OfficeGazette Reference
North AucklandAucklandNZ Gazette 1936 p1806
South AucklandHamiltonNZ Gazette 1936 p1806
(Previously Auckland District, Land Act 1948 s 22 changed the District name to South Auckland)
GisborneGisborneNZ Gazette 1936 p1806
Hawkes BayNapierNZ Gazette 1936 p1806
TaranakiNew PlymouthNZ Gazette 1936 p1806
WellingtonWellingtonNZ Gazette 1936 p1806
NelsonNelsonNZ Gazette 1901 p2411
MarlboroughBlenheimNZ Gazette 899 p167
CanterburyChristchurchNZ Gazette 1915 p955 & 3547
WestlandHokitikaNZ Gazette 1901 p2411
OtagoDunedinNZ Gazette 1955 p676
SouthlandInvercargillNZ Gazette 1955 p676
Land Transfer Acts

The Torrens system of title registration was implemented in 1870, replacing the Deeds system and Act. The 1870 Act was consolidated in 1885 and there have been three further consolidations with the most recent one being the Land Transfer Act 1952. Use of this system is compulsory; no legal interest in land may be created except by registration under the Land Transfer Act 1952.

The Torrens system has three core principles:

  1. Mirror principle – the register accurately and completely mirrors the state of title.
  2. Curtain principle – purchasers of land should not concern themselves with trusts and other interests lying behind the curtain of the register. The exception is that some public trusts (s129 LTA 1952) can appear on titles.
  3. Insurance principle – this provides state guarantee to the title and the interests registered within and provides for losses incurred as a result of errors in the registry.

Indefeasibility is a core concept of the land transfer system. It protects the registered proprietor against claims of a competing owner, and against encumbrances, estates and interests not appearing on the register. This system is supported by the state guarantee as to the accuracy of the registered rights. Indefeasibility can be defeated in the event that it can be proven that fraudulent activity has been carried out by the proprietors in obtaining the title.

Legal Description – see Appellation
Legalisation Plans

These are plans drawn up for land taken under the Public Works Act 1981 or other legislation.

Māori Customary Land

This is land which remains, in legal terms, in its 1840 state. It is an undefined customary interest which overlies the Crown’s radical title. The original Māori customary interests have not been altered by purchase, Land Court determination, or any other process. Apart from a few rocky outcrops on the coast missed by the Land Court when investigating titles in previous years, or a few hectares in rugged country where survey lines have failed to meet, very little, if any, Māori customary land exists. Where it does exist, it is totally unalienable. 

Māori Freehold Land

This is land where the customary interest has been converted to a fee simple interest after an investigation by the Land Court, and the land has not subsequently been sold or otherwise changed its status. There are about 1.3 million hectares of Māori freehold land today. Where more than one person owns the land, which is the norm, the tenants in common are not assumed to hold equal shares, instead the size of the interest of each owner will have been noted in the Court Orders creating the freehold title.

Together, Māori customary land and freehold land comprise what is legally termed as ‘Māori Land’, although practically the term means Māori freehold land.

Māori Land Court

The primary objective of the land court is to promote and assist the retention of Māori land and general land owned by Māori in the hands of the owners and to promote the effective use, management and development of these lands. Its functions are primarily administrative rather than judicial, and its approach is inquisitorial rather than strictly judicial. It is constituted as a court of record but has wide powers with regard to the receipt of evidence and management of its own procedure.

Almost all dealings with Māori land require the assistance or approval of the Māori Land Court. The court has extensive powers to determine the status of land; confirm or deny sales, leases or gifts; determine claims to relative interests in the land; establish, audit, and dissolve trusts and incorporations set up to administer the land; and determine interests on death of owners.

Māori Land Plans
These are Māori land subdivisions or partitions. They are identified by a number and an ML prefix, such as ‘ML 12345’.

Māori Reserves

A Māori reservation may be created from Māori freehold or general land for the purposes of village site, marae, meeting place, recreation ground, sports ground, bathing place, church site, building site, burial ground, landing place, fishing ground, spring, well, catchment area or other source of water supply, timber reserve, or place of cultural, historical, or scenic interest, or for any other specified purpose.

  1. Creation of reservations. Māori reservations are created by application and hearing before the Māori Land Court, which makes a recommendation to the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Maori Development. The reservation is created by notice in the Gazette.
  2. Use and management of reservations. Reservations are normally managed by trustees appointed by the court. Māori reservations are held for the common use and benefit of the owners or classes of Māori specified. Often these will be descendants of a common ancestor. Reservations may also be for the use and benefit of the people of New Zealand, but only with the agreement of the Māori owners and the relevant local authority.
  3. Alienations. Alienations of reserve land are severely restricted. While it is a reservation the land may not be sold, although it may be leased for a limited time period in certain circumstances. Land subject to a mortgage or charge cannot be included in a reservation, but land under a lease or licence may be. A reservation for a meeting place or marae may include land leased on a perpetually renewable basis.

Māori reservations have in recent years assumed a new importance as a mechanism to settle claims under the Treaty of Waitangi for the return of land controlled by the Crown.
Section 339 of Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 provides that the Minister of Maori Affairs may apply to the court for any land (including Crown land and some lands owned by state-owned enterprises and former state-owned enterprises) to be considered for a reservation on the grounds of its historical significance or spiritual or emotional association for certain Māori.

Pastoral Lease

Lease of Crown land for grazing, pastoral purposes or by individual or private owners or by body corporates.

Much of the South Island high country has been farmed under some form of lease arrangement from the 1850s and these leases were consolidated in a pastoral lease system under the Land Act 1948, which granted leaseholders exclusive occupation rights and fixed rentals but not right of freehold.

Under the Crown Pastoral Lease Act 1998 (CPLA), which updated legislation covering pastoral leases in 1998, pastoral leaseholders are entitled to perpetual right of renewal (leases come up for renewal every 33 years) and pay nominal rents (as set out in the Act at between 1.5% and 2.25% of unimproved land value, with rents reviewed every 11 years). The land is still owned by the Crown. The CPLA also established the tenure review process.

Provisional Register

The Provisional Registers were first established in 1871. When freehold, partition or other title orders of the Māori Land Court were first registered under the Land Transfer Act 1952, they were entered in the Provisional Registers (PR).

Each title order is given a volume and folio number which along with the prefix ‘PR’ can be used as a reference to access them. Almost all of these title orders are first generated by the Māori Land Court, and copies are often still held in the Māori Land Court.

Each Provisional Registration contains memorials entered against it referring to documents containing information affecting the land or its ownership. Usually, where the land is surveyed and the fees paid, a full Certificate of Title (CT) was issued for the land. The Title will show the earlier PR reference, which will also be noted in a memorial of any new title references arising from it.


Large volumes used to record information such as the receipt of a legal plan. Entries are usually in chronological order. These include Block registers, survey district registers, plan registers, Parish registers and so on. They vary by Land district, and many offices created registers that other offices did not.
Survey District

With the abolition of the Provinces on 1 November 1876, a standard system of surveys was instituted. New Zealand was divided into twenty-eight geographical areas, termed Meridional Circuits. These areas were then divided into Survey Districts. A survey district was to be 122 miles (1,000 chains) square and divided into l6 blocks 3 miles (250 chains) square.

Survey Office Plan

See also Survey Plans. A Survey Office plan is a record of all survey observations (bearing and distances) required to determine the correct position of the boundaries of a lot or section. Survey Office plans show these observations, together with underlying Certificate of Title boundaries, legal roads, and other information necessary to comply with the statutory requirements applying at that time. Plans are identified with a number and an SO prefix such as SO 12345.

Survey Plans

Some sequences of survey plans date back more than 160 years. Older plans may include the names of European settlers as well as English and Māori place names. The main sequences of plans are:

  • Deposited plans (DP)
  • Survey office plans (SO)
  • Māori land plans (ML).

Survey plans also show the label or ‘appellation’ for a piece of land. Some examples are ‘Section 1 Block VII Mata Survey District’ for Crown land or ‘Kaiti 313A6B2’ for Māori land or ‘Lot 1 DP 12345’ for general land).

When modern land is surveyed, surveyors create the survey plan and send it to LINZ. Plan approval and deposit enables titles (computer registers) to be issued. All survey plans are held electronically in Landonline.

Surveyor’s Field Book

Surveyors use field books to record measurements obtained in the field. Field books show the bearings and distances between each survey mark involved in a survey.
Field books date back more than 160 years. Older books may have place names and physical features (eg pa sites, hills, houses, etc). They are typically bound volumes from circa 1840.

Title Plans – see Deposited Plans

In survey, traverse is defined as the field operation of measuring the lengths and directions of a series of straight lines connecting a series of points on the earth.

Traverse Legs

Each of the straight lines in a traverse is called a traverse leg, and each point is called a traverse station.

Traverse Mark

Any survey mark that is not on a boundary. As well as the usual traverse and witness marks, this can include marks that were formerly on a boundary, eg if the mark has been disturbed or if the boundary has been extinguished.

Traverse Records

Traverse records are made up of schedules of coordinates assigned to each survey mark placed by surveyors. Traverse records are also known as traverse reductions or books. They come in bound volumes.

Triangulation (Trig) Stations

Reference points used in surveying, where the technique of triangulation is used in surveying to determine distances, using the properties of the triangle. To begin, surveyors measure a certain length exactly to provide a base line. From each end of this line they then measure the angle to a distant point, using a theodolite. They now have a triangle in which they know the length of one side and the two adjacent angles. By simple trigonometry they can work out the lengths of the other two sides. To make a complete survey of the region, they repeat the process, building on the first triangle.

Common abbreviations used on land records 


ASPAgreement for Sale and Purchase
CCLCommissioner of Crown Lands
CLCrown Land OR Crown Lease
DPDeferred Payment
DPCDeferred Payment, Commercial and Industrial
DPFDPF Deferred Payment, Farm
DPLDeferred Payment, License
DPUDeferred Payment, Urban
EREducation Reserve
FBField Book
FHFarm Homesteads
FSFarm Settlement
IFORPImproved Farm, Occupation with Right of Purchase
IFRLImproved Farm, Renewable Lease
IFSImproved Farm Settlement
IFSLPImproved Farm Settlement, Lease in Perpetuity
LIP/LPLease in Perpetuity
MLMāori Land OR Māori Lease OR Miscellaneous Licence
MLCMāori Land Court
MRMāori Reserve
NPNational Park OR Native Plan
NRNative Reserve
OLCOld Land Claim
ORPOccupation with Right of Purchase
PLPerpetual Lease OR Pastoral Licence
PRProvisional Register
RLRenewable Lease
RLCRenewable Lease, Commercial and Industrial
RLFRenewable Lease, Farm
RLLSRenewable Lease, Settlement Land
RLURenewable Lease, Urban
RPRoll Plan OR Road Plan
SDSurvey District
SFRLSmall Farms Renewable Lease
SFSSpecial Farm Settlement OR Small Farms - Ex-Servicemen
SGRSmall Grazing Runs
SRScenic Reserve
STDPSpecial Tenure - Deferred Payment
STDPSSpecial Tenure, Deferred Payment - Settlement
STLSpecial Tenure, Lease
STLSSpecial Tenure, Lease - Settlement
TB/TR/TVTraverse Book OR Traverse Volume
TRLTown Renewable Lease
WCSRWest Coast Settlement Reserve